DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers aren’t just winning games this week. They are making history.
One night after Rajai Davis hit Detroit’s first game-ending grand slam in 10 years, Rick Porcello significantly raised the bar.
In a 3-0 win over Oakland, Porcello became just the fourth pitcher in franchise history to throw a shutout without walking or striking out a batter, and the first since Dizzy Trout in 1944.
Porcello was slightly disappointed by his 95-pitch outing, even after learning how rare it was.
“In the last couple innings, I was hoping I’d get at least one strikeout,” he said. “I didn’t want to go out there and put up a zero. Still, with a game like this, I’m certainly not going to trade it in for anything.”
Porcello recorded 17 groundball outs and 10 in the air while becoming the first major-leaguer to accomplish the feat since Baltimore’s Jeff Ballard on Aug. 21, 1989. Porcello was eight months old when Ballard did it against Milwaukee.
“To be honest, it was pretty boring out there,” said Torii Hunter, who didn’t record an out in right field. “But that just shows you how great he was tonight. He was throwing that sinker right down the middle, and it was dropping out of the strike zone, and they were just beating it into the ground.”
The A’s got three singles and a double, and only got one runner to third base.
“Our guys were swinging at strikes, but everything was moving,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s got a good sinker and a good change-up, and now he’s mixing in a good breaking ball to keep you off balance. That’s just a very well-pitched game by him.”
Porcello’s night might have been historic, but it certainly didn’t come out of the blue. He pitched his first career shutout in his previous start, beating the Rangers on June 26, and pitched six shutout innings against Cleveland on June 20.
“I don’t want to jinx it,” he joked when asked about his shutout streak. “All I know is that I’m throwing the ball really well right now, I’m making consistent pitches when I need them, and my defense is helping me out. I’m also getting some good breaks, which every pitcher needs.”
Porcello (11-4) only had one career complete game before this stretch, but is now the first Tigers pitcher since Jack Morris to throw back-to-back shutouts. Morris threw three in a row in July, 1986.
“Obviously, Rick is throwing the ball extremely well right now,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “He had a great curveball and changeup tonight, and the sinker was better than that. It makes my job a lot easier when the starter has only thrown 88 pitches through eight innings.”
Brad Mills (1-1) took the loss for Oakland, allowing three runs on six hits and three walks in six-plus innings.
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the fourth when Miguel Cabrera walked, took third on J.D. Martinez’s double and scored on a groundout by Hunter. Oakland, in the meantime, was becoming the latest team to struggle for answers against Porcello, managing only two hits in the first six innings.
Martinez, starting for the second straight night while Victor Martinez deals with soreness in his left side, made it 3-0 with a two-run homer in the sixth. After moving into the everyday lineup in early June, J.D. Martinez is hitting .376 with seven homers and 20 RBIs in 19 games.
“I threw him a change, and I think he was sitting on it,” Mills said. “I certainly didn’t locate it where I wanted it.”
After that, the only suspense was if Porcello could finish off the shutout, and do it with a double-digit pitch count. He accomplished both, becoming the first Tigers pitcher to throw a shutout in under 100 pitches since Armando Galarraga in 2010. That was the game Galarraga had to face an extra hitter after first base umpire Jim Joyce blew the call on what should have been the last out in a perfect game.
NOTES: Victor Martinez took batting practice before the game, and told Ausmus that he could play, but Ausmus decided to rest him for another day. … Tigers 3B Nick Castellanos took full advantage of his position in Detroit’s shifted defense, picking up a pair of 5-3 assists while playing in short right field. … Oakland C Derrick Norris is getting closer to returning from a sore back, and could play in Wednesday’s series finale. … The time of the game was 2:13, meaning that a 7:08 start ended less than 10 minutes after sunset. … Yoenis Cespedes sat out after leaving Monday’s game with a cramp in his hamstring, but Melvin said he will be available on Wednesday.